LIHUE — The Office of the County Attorney is requesting $45,000 to take the mayor and police chief feud to Hawaii’s highest court.
The request comes after an Intermediate Court of Appeals decision in June, which said the mayor could not suspend and or discipline the chief of police and that the authority lies with the police commission.
Two council agenda items for Wednesday from the Office of the County Attorney show the request for authorization to expend funds up to $30,000 and $15,000 for special counsel’s continued representation of Bernard Carvalho, Jr. and the Kauai Police Commission, respectively.
During a council meeting in July, County Attorney Mauna Kea Trask said in an effort for his office to remain partial, he was requesting funds for special counsel to represent the parties. Trask said he worked with both the mayor’s office and the police department on a daily basis.
Trask said if council did not vote in favor to expend the $45,0000, the responsibility to advise the two parties, who had their own attorneys, would fall on his office, which already had hundreds of other legal matters to handle.
Nearly $80,000 has already been spent for special counsel for the mayor-police chief feud, Trask said.
Council members in July deferred the decision until Wednesday after a tie between members when Council Chair Mel Rapozo and Councilwoman JoAnn Yukimura vehemently presented their views.
Rapozo said the issue had gone on too long and that he agreed with the police commission, which said it wanted to depoliticize the department.
Yukimura said the Kauai Charter as it stands is vague and a Supreme Court decision on the feud would make any decisions to amend it clear. The mayor-chief feud affects not only the police commission, it affects other commissions as well, she told members.
A vote against this funding isn’t a vote against moving forward with this appeal, Rapozo told council members in July before they voted.
The ICA ruling stems from a 2012 lawsuit between the police commission and the mayor on who had the authority to suspend and/or discipline the chief.
On Feb. 2, 2012, the mayor suspended Kauai Police Department Police Chief Darryl Perry from work for seven days due to an ongoing investigation within the department, according to court records. Afterwards, he was placed on administrative leave.
When the police commission unanimously voted to have him return to work on Feb. 22, 2012, the mayor, by way of an officer, barred Perry’s reentry to his office, records showed.
The mayor said he was still on administrative leave and the police commission disagreed on who had the authority under the Kauai Charter to suspend and otherwise discipline the police chief.
Both parties said it was their right.
The two parties reached an agreement that allowed the chief to return to work on March 12, 2012.
On Nov. 28, 2012, a final judgment quoting the Kauai Charter stated that the mayor had the power to suspend and discipline the police chief.
The police commission appealed, stating it did not dispute that the mayor was the chief executive officer of the county of Kauai and has direct supervision over all departments within the executive branch, records showed. It did argue that the Kauai Charter did not give the mayor authority to suspend or discipline the police chief.
The mayor responded by stating the police commission’s interpretation would remove the police department from the executive branch and that only the mayor had direct supervision over the chief.
The appellate court, which agreed the mayor is the head of the executive branch, ruled in June that the circuit court erred when making its decision declaring the mayor has the authority over the chief of police.
The county council will decide Wednesday whether it will approve the request from both parties to expend the $45,000 to continue the lawsuit in the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court will also have to decide whether it will even take the case.
The mayor and the police chief declined to comment.
Michelle Iracheta, cops and courts reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Michelle on Twitter @cephira